A makeshift home made of plywood covered in plastic topped with rocks in Joshua Tree is where deputies say three children ages 11, 13 and 14 were living.
San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies came across the property they thought was abandoned on Wednesday night. There, deputies found mounds of human feces, trash, no electricity, no running water and little food and a trailer overrun by cats, conditions unsafe for anyone let alone children. The parents 51-year-old Mona Kirk and 73-year-old Daniel Panico were arrested and face child cruelty charges.
His neighbor, Mike Reynolds could not see how they were living from his home but says they’ve been neighbors for at least four years, "Through the years we had gotten to know each other … he’s a nice guy, he’s very intelligent." adding that he would often give him a ride home from the market but would only drop him off at the edge of the property.
Reynolds says the family had simply fallen on hard times, "When the economy took a crash he lost his house his family lost his house right here in Joshua Tree," adding that Panico told him he planned to build his dream home on the lot.
He says there were no warning signs that something was wrong, "I never heard any arguing , I never heard any screaming, you know … and we live so close you could hear them play you could hear them giggling and laughing and being kids."
Reynolds says says while he did not know the extent of their living conditions they were doing the best they could and should have been helped not arrested, "They were normal people, living in their own land, in their own home, the way they did … I don’t think that’s a crime."
He now wishes he had stepped in to help, "I stayed out of his business and you know and for that I regret if I had known what was going to happen I would have said here you have a place to stay," adding that it’s not too late for the community to do something, "Let’s keep a family together and now a family is torn apart over this it’s a horrible situation but we can do something about this we can help them."
The three children are now in protective custody, the parents are facing child cruelty charges and are being held on $100,000 bail.